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How Muscle Relaxers Work for Back and Neck Pain

A weekend spent gardening. A raucous game of pickleball. Bending over to pick up a dropped pen. Suddenly your neck or back seizes up and it’s hard to catch your breath. Muscle spasms, where the muscle involuntarily contracts—and stays that way—for a few seconds, minutes, or longer, are painful and impossible to predict. “They can occur at night (called nocturnal spasms), after exercise, or around an injured area,” says Bhuvaneswari Sandeep Ram, M.B.B.S. (an international equivalent of M.D.), an assistant professor of anesthesia and critical care at The University of Chicago Medicine in Chicago, IL. Muscles may also spasm due to dehydration or because of a neurological disorder.

“Spasms can happen anywhere in the body, depending on the cause,” says Dara Jones, M.D., a pediatric physiatrist at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City. “The most common places that we see them from daily activities are in the lower back, neck, and shoulders.”

Although non-prescription solutions can sometimes help alleviate the pain and discomfort of muscle spasms, other times you may need something stronger. That’s where muscle relaxers, which work by stopping spasms at the source, can help. Follow these guidelines for treating muscle spasms and related disorders through both medications, physical therapy, and other modalities, and check out the home remedies designed to provide relief.

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